Prayer to my antepasados
When I was a kid my mother had us kneel on the bed before a cross on the wall, our hands pressed in prayer. Pajama-clad we asked for blessings to carry us through the night into morning. I even have a photo of one such night. How intuitive my mother must have been to know that one day I would need these specific images of her profound care for safe passage through my own dark nights.
As a kid, my nights were peopled with monsters I couldn’t outrun. I wanted to be small, disappear so that they would no longer see me, chase me. Now, that is my biggest fear — that I will disappear.
On these nights I toss and turn in the heavy hours before morning. I reach back into deep time in search of that squirming fish I must have been in my mother’s psyche before I was born. Reach back to that time when I was but a darting thought, a whisper of something fleshy and human yet-to-be, a daughter or son for whom she, in her own childhood, did not yet yearn. Farther back, even, I move through the yawning web of ancestors who gave rise to great-great grandparents and grandparents, looking for the moment of my true inception. Somewhere there is a speck or a drop – a spark that flashed in the universe leaving a faint contrail in its wake: Aha! My mother, my father, and all those faces – Josés, Marías, Zenáidas, Felicidades, Luzes – thousands of faces that blended and blurred, zooming into one solid moment that became me.
I used to think that you can escape blood. That if there is something or someone in your past you don’t like, you can simply cut it off, like a wart, or a tumor. Truth is, these days I’d rather leave myself intact, lug along the appendages of personal history. I need them now. The more my mother disappears, the more I call upon my ancestors. “Help me remember,” I say. “Help me call up and read all that is written on the skin of my cells, because I am not erased yet. And while I am not erased, neither is she.”